27 January 2016

An open letter to the lady in the cafe

To the lady sitting at the table next to me in the cafe today, I needed to write this letter to you as I didn't get chance to say what I wanted to say.

I was there with my 5 month old baby, having coffee with a friend I hadn't seen for ages. My baby started crying so I did what any mother would do and fed my baby. And that's when you said it. The sentence that has filled me with so many emotions today. You said to your friend:


My heart started to race and I started to feel embarrassed and flustered as I realised that you were referring to me discreetly feeding my baby.  I didn't quite know what to do or what to say. You see, you went about it in an underhand way, sharing your opinion with your friend loud enough for me to hear but not directly to me. It made it difficult for me to respond, so I didn't. I am not one for confrontation either and didn't want to make a scene. Instead I've come home and felt disappointed that I didn't stand up for myself, I'm cross that I let you upset me with your ignorance. I've read about people like you but didn't actually think you existed and I'm grateful that in my 4 years as a mother, feeding my babies, that I haven't come across you before now. I hope this means that you are in the minority.

Here's my answer to your rhetorical question. I 'feel the need' to breastfeed in public for one reason only... My baby needs feeding and I can't hide away at home just because people like you 'don't need to see that'. The fact is this was the first bit of 'me' time in such a long time. I am also the proud owner of a 2 year old and a 4 year old and had just half an hour to catch up with a friend. You almost spoilt it but I won't let you. You did however make me feel upset and angry and I feel like you need to know that.

I also have some questions for you. I wonder what you were hoping to achieve with your comment? Was it designed to make me feel bad or did you just not think? What do you expect breast feeding mothers to do? Hide away out of sight in case we should offend you? Because that just isn't practical, or fair and quite honestly why should we?  I'd like to say at this point that this isn't a 'breast is best' kind of rant, I have no opinions whatsoever on how babies are fed. This is how I have chosen to feed my baby and I will feed her any where, any time if that's what she needs.

Breastfeeding is really hard work and mums need encouragement rather than being berated. I'm a confident mother and breast feeder with this being my 3rd baby and still you have knocked my confidence with your thoughtless and  selfish comments. I dread to think of the impact your passing comments may have had on a new mum still finding her way.

You are of course entitled to your opinions but this is a situation where you could have kept them to yourself, you could have just looked away. Quite frankly there is more breast on display on the magazine racks in the newsagents down the road. If it's not the sight of breast that offends you but the act of feeding a baby from one then I have no words, as I can't for the life of me find one offensive thing about it. 

I didn't 'need' to hear your obnoxious comments this afternoon so please think about that next time you 'feel the need' to go out in public. 

Me 

25 January 2016

The mummy guilt

The mummy guilt... Oh it's a guilt like no other. It creeps up on you and will not leave you alone, it's there, sitting on your shoulder like a little monster invading your conscience and no matter how many times you shrug it off it reappears, taunting you with its tongue sticking out.

Monster artwork by Miss Boo age 4
I find myself feeling guilty daily, whether it's because I haven't played with the girls enough, or the baby had to cry a bit while I took Miss Boo to the toilet or put Miss Tibs down for a nap. Or that I raised my voice and hurried them out the door because we were in a rush and running late. I feel guilty for looking at the clock and wondering if it's bedtime, guilty for moaning when I know I am beyond lucky, guilty for stupid things like giving them kinder eggs this afternoon instead of fruit. I feel guilty if I do and guilty if I don't. It's all totally pointless guilt.

Then there's the niggly guilt in the background, guilt about how Miss Boo had been to baby swimming, baby sensory, baby massage, baby sign and baby singing by 6months old and Miss Dot is bundled here there and everywhere on her big sisters schedules and woken up from naps to collect them from playschool without a baby class in sight. On the subject of playschool I feel guilty for sending the girls when I am a stay at home mum, I need a break and feel guilty for that too. I feel guilty putting the girls in each other's hand me downs, I feel guilty when they all need me at the same time and I have to decide who needs me most, I feel guilty for the amount of times the older two are told to 'wait a minute' (or 10) while I feed, settle or change the baby. It's ridiculous I know, Miss Dot does not care about the baby classes, the girls love playschool and need to go as much as I do, they don't mind or even know about the hand me downs and they love each other and having siblings to share their day with fiercely. I now feel guilty for feeling guilty :)

My Mr is a good one for re-centering me and during my mummy guilt rambles to him he always says the same thing 'look at the girls, they are so happy, if you ever doubt you are doing a good job, just look at them.' I am assuming he means when they are being sweet and not lying down having a moment in a supermarket aisle or yanking each others hair :) They are fed, clean and loved, so, so loved, and receive enough cuddles and kisses each day to sink a battleship. So with that in mind I'm making myself a promise which I really hope I can keep, to be less hard on myself, push the mummy guilt aside, to accept that i'm doing my best and that that's enough, more than enough.

Me x


Dear Bear and Beany

20 January 2016

Tib's Turns Two



Miss Tibs! You're two! How did that happen? I've decided to write to you all on your birthday each year to some how capture you in time. This is you, right now, here in words and all that we love about you.

You are an amazing little being. You are old beyond your years, you always have been, trying to keep up with your big sister who is your hero. You crawled at 6 months, walked at 10 months and talk like a 3 year old, there's no stopping you. In fact when people ask you how old you are you say '3 in January', not til next year little lady! You're so funny and cheeky, you make jokes and giggle at the strangest things. You are super ticklish and have such a glint in your eye. Your presence is so felt, you light up a room when you are in it and make everyone smile.

You have incredible empathy for your age, a heart of gold, and will run to get your sisters a tissue when they cry or fetch Miss Boo's bunnies for her when you can tell she's sad. You love cuddling and being cuddled, I love it when you reach up to me and say 'cuddle'. As soon as I scoop you up you wriggle down and off you go again, you're always on a mission. You snuffle a muslin cloth to sleep or for comfort and have recently started showing a preference for certain ones and fondly named them 'clothy'.

You're a brilliant little sister and an equally brilliant big sister. You play make believe with Miss Boo and lie gazing at butterflies next to Miss Dot on her playmat. You look at them both with such love and adoration, it's just wonderful. You can be a bit of a tinker with a little pinch or hair tug here and there but you are quickly forgiven with that devilish grin that you own. We have been amazed at how well you have adjusted to Miss Dot's arrival last year and are super proud of how you have just got on with life as you know it, I hope this happy go lucky personality trait sticks as it will stand you in good stead for the future.

You're a typical toddler, you love playing with your farm animals, building things with duplo and being a mummy to your dolls. You insist that your baby has a hat on at all times. You love jumping in puddles, playing in the sandpit and grubbing around. You eat playdough like it's going out of fashion, you also love pomegranate seeds which I silently beg you not to ask for in the supermarket in case we appear on the "overheard at waitrose" site! You call peppa pig 'pekka pig' which makes us smile every time you say it. 

You have so much energy and zest for life, my heart is in my mouth every time you try something new as you are a little explorer and so daring but unaware of risks. You love wearing wellies, they are your accessory of choice wherever we go. You love dancing and singing nursery rhymes, favourites at the moment are heads shoulders knees and toes and sleeping bunnies. You have a slight obsession with the 'big bad wolf' we have read little red riding hood and the three little pigs countless times over the last few months,  I have even made you a big bad wolf birthday cake at your request. You hide behind your hands every time we get you out the car and truly believe that we can't see you, you never get tired of us pretending we don't know where you are and giggle as you take your hands away.

So what does the next year hold for you? I can hardly even imagine! I know you'll keep me busy and continue to amaze me. You're starting playschool this week. I know you'll love this and settle in just fine, you've been taking your coat and boots off and sitting on the mat each time we take miss boo for a while now. You'll continue to grow into the strong, independent little lady that we know and love, we are so proud of you.

Happy birthday 'my darling' (I smile as I type this as you recently said this was your name when you were asked!) 

Love mummy x

16 January 2016

A weekend in Center Parcs




Last week we spent the weekend with our little ladies and family at Center Parcs Elvedon near Suffolk. My lovely in laws treated us as a Christmas present to a 3 night family break and what an amazing present it was. 4 days of wonderful family time, so many adventures for the little ladies and as much of a break as possible with three small children. 


We stayed in a 3 bedroom woodland villa which has pretty much everything you need, even so we had to take two cars to fit in all the little ladies stuff, pushchairs, scooters, outdoor clothing, swimming kit - the list goes on. The villas are designed with families in mind and consist of open plan self catering living. They are equipped with cots, a children's step to reach the sink/toilet and a high chair. They are spaced well amongst the trees in a beautiful forest setting making you feel that you have got away from it all. The villas surround the village centre, the heart of centre parcs where you'll find the base for most of the activities, the swimming pool and a supermarket, gift shops and whole host of restaurants. 

Check in to your villa is from 3pm but are welcome on site on the day of your break from 10am so we arrived just after lunch and headed straight for the subtropical swimming paradise (swimming pool!) the little ladies were amazed by it, shallow warm water, slides, a pirate ship and toddler splash zone with so much to explore. After 2hrs They didn't want to get out, even Miss Dot was super content. 


We headed to the villa and unloaded the car before tucking in to a yummy pasta bake that Nana had brought with her. After a lot of convincing the little ladies settled down for the night (they were sharing a villa and room with some of their cousins and it was very, very exciting!). We poured a glass of wine , lit a fire and collapsed in a heap! 

The next day we swam first thing in the morning and enjoyed a post swimming treat at 'The Pancake House'. The children's menu is good value. The little ladies had a stack of chocolate pancakes  each and a milkshake in a cute little milk bottle dusted with hundreds and thousands, they couldn't believe their eyes. 


On the way back to the villa we picked up a baguette from the supermarket. I brought lots of other food to make lunch with and snack on with us as it can be quite pricey as a family of 5 otherwise. (I'd recommend taking tea bags, coffee, washing up liquid, dishwasher tablets, bin bags and extra toilet rolls with you as these are things you would definitely have to buy as what is provided only lasts the first day or two.) The little ladies were so exhausted from their swim in the morning that they ALL had a nap... And so did I! Something I never do at home as there is too much to do and it felt so good. The girls played with their cousins for the rest of the afternoon in the villa while we pottered around and relaxed. We took some toys and books with us but they were equally happy to sit and watch the squirrels and deer that kept wandering past the patio doors. We then got some fresh air and walked to the outdoor play area to let off some steam before dinner. Miss Dot was in her element and got lots of sling time! 



For dinner we had a family meal (all 16 of us!) in Bella Italia. The food and service were great and there were clean plates all round. There is a small play area in the restaurant which meant the children could get down from the table while we were waiting and then sat beautifully when we were eating. The children's menu had lots of variety and again was great value. It was blissful not to have to cook.

The next day we were back in the pool before lunch and then were treated to another triple nap from the little ladies. It was great to just sit and have a cuppa together when at home if this happened we would be running round like mad people doing jobs. We thought it would be fun to involve the children in some cooking as a bit of an activity, so for tea we made pizzas, everyone really got stuck in and enjoyed rolling their dough and decorating their pizzas. As a special treat we booked a bowling lane for after tea, It was the first time the girls had bowled and they were fascinated, particularly by their bowling shoes! 



It was lovely to see them cheering each other on as their bowling balls rolled at a snails pace down the lane. We had the lane for 45 minutes which was more than enough time. After bowling there as a children's disco which delighted the girls, they boogied away quite happily for an hour before practically falling asleep on the dance floor. There was no trouble getting them to bed and we settled down with Ice cream and a film.  It was a lovely way to spend our last evening. 

We had to vacate the villa by 10am which gave us plenty of time. You can stay and enjoy the facilities after you have checked out so that's exactly what we did. ANOTHER swim and lunch in the poolside cafe before heading home at nap time. We only scratched the surface of all the things a Center Parcs holiday has to offer, next time we go I'd love to try the in house dining takeaway service, the Aqua Sana spa and when the girls are older it would be great to hire some bikes and enjoy the fresh air and some of the other sporting activities, they would LOVE the pony trekking. There is just so much to do to suit everyone and you can do as much or as little as you like. We had the best couple of days making wonderful memories - what more can you want, family time, a change of scene, relaxation and fun for all. We can't wait to go back again soon. In fact at bedtime Miss Boo said 'when I'm a mummy I'm going to take my children to center parcs'; that in itself is review enough! 

Me x

*There are 5 Center Parcs villages across the UK, for more information or to book your break, visit their website HERE.*


9 January 2016

Supporting a new mama

This year there will be several babies arriving in our immediate network. It's made me reflect on my own experience of becoming a mother and got me thinking about what kind of support new mamas really need when their babies arrive, whether it's your first baby or you are adding to an existing brood. Here I am some time between day 1-3 with Miss Boo, Miss Tibs and Miss Dot - note the equal size of the smiles and bags under my eyes in all 3!


It's incredible, amazing, exhausting, a learning curve, a bit of a shock to the system and sometimes a bit overwhelming all at the same time. It's a real roller coaster of emotions in those first few weeks as you find your feet thanks to hormones, sleep deprivation and more. I've never felt more vulnerable, tired and elated than coming home with each of our three babies. These are the things helped me adjust to life as a new mama and that helped make my journey into motherhood as smooth a transistion as possible.

1. Space, time and privacy 
However you end up giving birth your body has gone through an epic journey and I think new mamas need space, time and privacy to recover and get to grips with the fact that they are now a mummy, with learning to care for and spend time with their baby and form their new family unit. I certainly did and loved spending the first few days at home in my pyjamas. The only people I really wanted to see were my Mr and close family. I needed support and looking after and didn't need to be worrying about anyone else other than my baby. I also just wanted to stare at and cuddle my babies, as much as they roll in to one the newborn days go so fast.

We sent a message to friends and family announcing the girls' arrivals and included a line to say that we would let people know when we were ready for visits. Everyone respected this and it meant we were in control of when and who came to visit us so that we had the time together we needed. With paternity leave being only 2 weeks I think it's so important for parents to have this time together, with all the essential visits from health professionals thrown in there too the first few weeks could easily be filled with people constantly coming and going which is in itself exhausting. At the same time I always felt incredibly proud of the little human I had grown and wanted to introduce my babies to my friends and family so we scheduled one visit a day in the afternoon or evening so we could have nice lazy mornings together. We also arranged these visits mostly on the day particularly in the first week when hormones are flying around in every direction. If I wasn't feeling up to it we could just have a quiet family day.  People are always keen to visit but as excited as friends and family are to meet the new arrival I think it's so important to remember that no one has been more desperate to meet that little person than the parents themselves.

When people did come and visit I always appreciated it when they kept the visit short, 30 mins, an hour at the most and made themselves and me a cup of tea :) I also always really appreciated it when as soon as my baby so much as grumbled she was passed back to me, as a new mum believe me that grumble sounds like 1000 babies crying and you just want your baby back as soon as it cries. I also really appreciated it when people who were poorly stayed away until they were well, although this is perhaps a first baby worry as this all went out the window with Miss Tibs and Miss Dot when Miss Boo came home from playschool with all manner of coughs and sneezes! 

2. Food, support and hugs 
It meant the world to me to receive little messages just to see how we were all getting on, especially on days 3-5 when my milk came in and on the first day my Mr went back to work. Just to know someone is thinking of you feels great.  Offers of help or things like milk, bread and nappy deliveries were so welcomed. When visitors brought meals for us it was like all our Christmases had come at once. You spend all your time looking after your baby it's so easy to forget about yourself and while a takeaway or two is lovely there is nothing quite like a home cooked meal that just needs reheating. Ready meals like lasagne, posh cook at home pizzas and ready prepared salads and cake were just some of the things people bought over for us and we were so so grateful. There are some incredible websites out there that do all the hard work for you at the press of a button, my favourites are COOK who deliver home cooked meals to your door.  Special gifts for new mums that arrive through the post are so valued too I love these two websites 'Don't Buy Her Flowers' who have thoughtful packages to treat mums and other special people in your life and My Little Box  which is a subscription pick me up service for 'me time' treats. You could always make your own and send a tea bag, a magazine and a bar of her favourite chocolate. 

3. Advice, reassurance and patience 
Babies don't come with a manual and they are all different, caring for them, although pretty basic, is a steep learning curve and having someone rely on you entirely for all their needs is daunting. There are so many different ways to parent and so many different bits of kit to get your head round it can all be a bit overwhelming. I had never changed a nappy before or dressed a baby and only held one a couple of times. I found it invaluable to be able to ask people who had already been there anything I wanted and appreciated them offering their pearls of wisdom and top tips. As a new mummy I worried about everything, was I doing it right, was this normal, was that normal. As a second time mummy I worried about logistically juggling two, if I was giving them both enough of me. As a third time mummy, if I'm honest I haven't had much chance to even think about worrying! But I have tough days and it's nice to have people there just to listen, to reach out to and ask for help and guidance if I'm not sure or struggling. Above all I think as new mums we sometimes just need a bit of reassurance that we are doing ok, motherhood seems to bring with it a dose of self doubt. I am a huge fan of these New Mum Cards designed by Katie at Hurrah For Gin:




I have a stash ready to send out to mummies to be for when they need a reminder that they are indeed doing a brilliant job, they are like a hug in the post.

I was acutely aware all three times and I still am, that I may have seemingly fallen off the face of the planet to friends in the first year of having a baby. Things change when you become a parent. It literally takes over your entire world, it's epically life changing and all your priorities shift. It's all about the tiny little person that now lives in your home. That little person infiltrates your brain 24hrs a day when you are with or without them. There just isn't the time, capacity or energy for socialising much as you did pre children in those early weeks and months and personally I've always found it really hard to leave my babies. It's nothing personal, I have just been busy being a mum and have little left to give sometimes. I try really hard to keep in touch and to go to things if I can. Luckily my friends are awesome and very forgiving and know I'll emerge in a few months or so ready to get back to me a bit and share a large bottle of wine ;)

So to all the expectant mamas I know; I  can't wait to meet your new arrivals this year and am looking forward to being there for you with a plate of lasagne, cake, reassurance and a massive hug

Me x



6 January 2016

Entertaining when you have children



Maybe it's just us... But small
Children are not conducive to a great social life, unless of course it's theirs. We're not short of play dates, outings or children's birthday parties with the little ladies, but grown up socialising, dinner, drinks and heaven forbid dancing... Are hard to come by. We don't mind that much and are quite happy with our hangover free weekends in the form of  a takeaway and a film, but we do miss our friends. So this Christmas we decided to have a little get together at ours, it went a  little something like this:

It's 18:47 and we have 8 friends turning up at 19:30 for dinner and drinks. I am feeding the baby, daddy is trying to settle the other two but they are completely bouncing off the walls, running around naked after their bath shouting monkey boobies and patting their chests... We are in the clothes we have had on all day with added snot, sick and pasta sauce.. Not ours I might add. I don't think I have brushed my hair today and I certainly haven't put any make up on. When the baby is asleep I'll go down and put some on, this always feels so odd as it's practically bedtime for me too. I'll baby wipe my clothes, it's that or iron new ones and to be honest I am so tired I can't really be bothered tonight. We'll throw the toys into various storage spaces in attempt to make the place look vaguely grown up and tidy, I might even light a candle and put some music on that isn't the soundtrack to that beloved disney film with all the ice... 

Ice.... That reminds me, we don't have any. Might have time to dash to the shops for a bag. Probably not though unless I sacrifice the makeup and I'm not sure what would be worse for our guests, probably the latter... 

18:55 Daddy has just brought Miss Tibs in for a good night kiss. One down, 2 to go...

I've text our guests to tell them to sneak in through the kitchen door rather than ringing the doorbell and waking the little ladies, nothing like making them feel welcome...

19.00 the baby is still feeding and I'm close to falling asleep... Although I'm starving as I programmed to eat at 5pm with the little ladies. 

19:05 daddy I hear the clink of the stair gate and daddy goes downstairs to start making some kind of food. I prize the baby off me and lie her down in her cot. 

Now the mad dash begins and in the nicest possible way I'm wondering what I was thinking. I know what I was thinking, I am a social recluse and haven't seen my friends for so long, we can't go out because I'm not able to and don't want to leave miss dot. She'll be awake in 45 minutes and hourly thereafter. Sure she won't mind joining the party. So we invited everyone here and I get to keep my slippers on - winning ;) 

19:19 Three children asleep, Mr ironing his shirt, make up done. Plenty of time to go to the shops for ice and prosecco... We (I) NEED prosecco. 

19.29 home from the shops and friends are already here... Oops

19:45 eventually pour and take a sip of my drink and start to feel sociable, cue baby on the baby monitor who is ready to party too.

20:00- 21:00 feed the baby in between nibbles of party food. Attempt to make conversation and epically fail, I vaguely remember (ok, definitely remember) a very awkward conversation about pelvic floor with one of the male guests, mainly having to explain what it is after mentioning it in passing (note to self - this is not a conversation to be had in this kind of situation) The baby thinks all this is hilarious and is grinning at guests and wondering what on earth is going on. 

22:00 We really turn the party up a notch and crack out the games that the little ladies got for Christmas... Yes really...Turns out Bunny Jump is good fun until you realise that it's the same carrot that makes the bunny jump each time. 

11:00 most of the guests and us have now eaten so much beige party food that we are flagging. Time for another game...
the name game, guessing people from descriptions. The baby is still awake at this point and turns her head from her feed everytime someone shouts out a name. Good job most of the guests have seen my boobs before and if they haven't they sure know what they look like now.

11:45 yawns are being suppressed badly  which one of our friends notices (I love her for this) and starts the departure proceedings.  The baby is exhausted after a very social evening, maybe she'll do a good stint for me ( this is highly unlikely) 

12:10 after a quick tidy round (paper plates and plastic cups were a great shout) we climb into bed ready for the 6:30 wake up call from the other two with more intermittent feeding of the baby.

6:30am the next day, I wonderered if the level of tired I felt was all worth it.... And the answer: Absolutely yes. A Good night with good friends is good for the soul. Bed at 7 with the kids tonight though! 

Me x